"[P]oetry makes nothing happen: it survives, / [...] a way of happening, a mouth." -W. H. Auden

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mystical Sensualist: Eric Pankey's New Book

Eric Pankey, one of the poets included in my anthology, Poems of Devotion, has a beautiful new book out from Milkweed Editions entitled Trace. Pankey's spare, condensed poems in this collection examine details of the physical world with the kind of reverence we usually reserve for works of art, or perhaps for scripture. The voice here is one of a mystical sensualist, one who is highly attuned to the most minute visual or tangible details of experience and who senses a mysterious spiritual significance underlying it all. Here is one of my favorite poems from the collection, reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. (Note: A burin is a flint or metal tool used for engraving.)

Moon Phases Carved on a Bone
by Eric Pankey

One can interrogate the stars,
Count the barbs as they slope
Toward the feather's tip,

Make of prime numbers 
A hive of the mind,
Speculate with images.

At the shore of waking,
A fragment insinuates narrative,
A sequence of events, phases:

The half-moon adorned in its cornhusk mask,
The crescent moon as it sheds
Scree, grit, pollen, and spores,

The straw effigy of the new moon--
Expiatory, a jabber of smoke--
Rendered, reduced to a notion.

Yet awake, one recalls mere sleep,
Not the torch-marks on the bear's skull,
Not the blister the burin rubbed up.

"Moon Phases Carved on a Bone," from Trace by Eric Pankey (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. www.milkweed.org


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